Back in 2020, Colorado voters narrowly approved a ballot forcing the state to reintroduce grey wolves. After nearly two years of researching and planning, the state is preparing to do exactly that throughout the upcoming winter months. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has now given us the general area in which those reintroductions are set to occur, nicknamed the “donut hole”.
This region, according to Colorado Public Radio, sits 60 miles from the borders of Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico in an attempt to prevent the reintroduced grey wolves from immediately migrating out of Colorado and into one of those states. The eastern border of the region sticks along the continental divide, as decided by Colorado voters in the passing of Proposition 114.
This region encompasses a significant number of the states ski resorts, with Vail, Aspen, nearly all of the resorts around Dillon and Frisco, and many more falling into the “donut hole”. This region was specifically designed to encompass the strongest habitats for wolf populations while decreasing possible harm to livestock.
This does not mean, of course, that the wolves will stay inside the region. Wolves are big travelers, and, assuming the reintroduction is successful, it’s fairly likely that they’ll make their way out of the region and all over Colorado. For now, however, the decided upon region seems to be the best option.
“There are big wilderness areas around the ski towns that a provide a combination of low livestock and places that tended to support the ballot initiative.” – Mark Ditmer, research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, according to CPR
What will this mean for skiers? Probably nothing. It’s entirely possible that some skiers may have interactions with wolves, but it’s incredibly rare for them to be aggressive towards humans. According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), there are approximately 59,000-70,000 wolves in Alaska and Canada. Since 1970, there have only been 18 instances in which a wolf attacked a human, and only 8 of those cases were severe. As long as people aren’t feeding wolves or encouraging them to be near humans, it will remain incredibly unlikely for people to be attacked.
Wolves are already known to exist in Colorado. CPW states that they receive around 100 sighting reports a year. Those reports, however, aren’t generally considered reliable unless there’s strong evidence supporting the claims exist. A pair was confirmed to have bred in the state for the first time in decades when, in June of 2021, two wolves that had been marked with GPS tracking collars were spotted with pups.
No matter what, livestock is probably going to be killed and these wolves will definitely do some damage. But, if that’s what it takes to actually do a little good for the environment and ecosystems, then I’m in full support. Also, more importantly, the Colorado voters are in support, as they decided in 2020, so that’s what really matters.
Image Credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife on YouTube